The 1890s ushered in the bicycle craze, as the safety bicycle (with two matching wheels and a chain) pushed out the dangerous “penny-farthing” high-wheel bicycles. J F Weiss, the hardware store on the northeast corner of Center and Plymouth lured back Frank Wiltrout, a Bremen boy who had done tinwork for them a few years earlier and who had a passion for bicycles.

Click any image to display a larger version.

At the time, Weiss also owned the Huff building next door, which would become a movie theater in 1910. The sign on the door to the second floor over the theater is still there, 120 years later.

Frank Wiltrout would move away to South Bend, but he returned to Bremen now and then to visit friends and family. He was married to Mary Matz, sister of shopkeeper William F Matz. For many years, on and off, he managed a baseball team known at first as the “South Bend Fats” and later as “Wiltrout’s Famous Heavy Weights”. The players (like their owner) were all of generous size.

Wiltrout organizes fat baseball team - Enquirer_Fri__Sep_1__1899_
Wiltrout organizes fat baseball team – Bremen Enquirer – Sep 1, 1899
Wiltrout organizes fat baseball team - Enquirer_Thu__Jul_24__1919_
Wiltrout organizes fat baseball team – Bremen Enquirer – Jul 24, 1919

Thanks to Ijinio Flores for access to this terrific piece of local history!